It would seem that I write one of these every single September.
The Patriots lost their first game, which means you fall into one of two categories: you’re either already over it and looking forward to seeing what Josh Gordon will do catching passes from Tom Brady, or you’re one of those sky is falling folks who isn’t happy with New England boasting a Top 10 defense at the end of the season because they’re using September to test different personnel groupings and find out which combination of players works best. But no matter where you fall on the spectrum, nobody likes to lose, so here are five positives we can take away from Sunday’s Jags game.
It’s Week 2. For some teams, Week 2 matchups are important. The results are worth celebrating, and a win instills all kinds of confidence. I mean that in all sincerity, as every team in the NFL is at a different point in the developmental process. But the Patriots are not that team. The month of September is more or less an extended preseason for New England, and this game isn’t likely to matter at the end of the season unless the Pats and Jags manage to finish with identical records. And I just don’t see that happening, to be honest. I said the same thing when the Chiefs beat the Patriots in Week 1 of last year, and New England ended that season with the Number One seed.
No Marcus Cannon. The Patriots also lost Flowers and Chung to concussions, which meant that three key pieces of the team that the Patriots would need to beat the Jaguars were out. The early pressure that Brady felt, his inability to get into any kind of rhythm, his inaccuracy, a lot of that stemmed from the pressure that the Jaguars were able to get when the game first got going, and LaAdrian Waddle got tossed around for much of the game. I don’t want to say that getting Cannon back in the lineup is an instant fix, but it’s definitely going to help.
Expected offensive rust. This is more or less exactly what I expected from the Patriots offensively, especially early in the year. We saw it against the Texans; tentativeness, difficulty by the receivers getting separation, and some miscommunication. But that’s OK, because the Patriots will be able to figure this out and come back next week with the necessary adjustments. Plus...you know. There’s that whole Josh Gordon guy. He’s pretty okay, I guess.
Defense. There isn’t another defense like Jacksonville’s. This was the best defense the Patriots will see this year. The blueprint for beating the Patriots hasn’t really changed in a decade plus; the reality is that there just aren’t that many teams who can do it defensively while also putting a solid game together on offense. Going up against that defense, on the road, in the heat...I’m OK with it. And as a defensive guy, I really enjoyed watching what the Jags could do to an offense still trying to find it’s feet.
We’ll see them again. The AFC South is going to be an incredibly interesting division to watch. While it’s still way to early to make any real judgments, it seems that the Jaguars are the favorites to win that division – which means the Patriots will see them again in the postseason. And New England usually does pretty well in rematches. When the game really matters, I’m confident that the result will be different, regardless of where it’s played.